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Brawley resident turns graduation requirement into passion

April 29, 2002|By RICHARD MYERS

Sports Editor

BRAWLEY — It began as a simple idea but it has developed into a passion.

"It started just as my senior project," said Brawley's Sean Rios, 18, who got into kickboxing to satisfy one of the requirements for graduation from Brawley Union High, which he will do in June.

"But along the way it somehow ended up being a lot more," continued Rios, who recently won his first amateur fight. "I want to show my classmates and the underclassmen at Brawley that anything is possible if they want it hard enough.

"Hey, I'm proof," he added.

Rios said a lot of people thought it was a hoax, a lark, when they learned he was getting involved in kickboxing for his senior project. He proved them wrong with his determination to succeed.

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In his first fight Rios out-scored Bakersfield's Victor Lopez to win the light cruiserweight amateur division at the International Kickboxing Federation's King of the Ring Tournament April 20 at Pacifica High School in Oxnard.

Rios won by unanimous decision, out-pointing Lopez on all three judges' scoreboards 30-27. Rios won each of the two-minute rounds.

Rios knocked down Lopez with a hard kick to the legs in the first 10 seconds of their match. Rios was knocked down later in the round, but by the third round the Brawley teen had Lopez gasping for air.

"They lied to me," Rios said of the IKF officials, who initially told Rios Lopez was 20 years old. "He really was 31. I was a little worried when I first saw him."

Rios figures Lopez had the edge in experience because of the age factor. But Rios' youth won out over the more fatigued Lopez.

Weight issues made Rios' inaugural bout an interesting one. Opponents must weigh within seven pounds of each other before they can step into the ring, he said.

"I thought he had been dieting," Rios said, so he kept his weight down for the bout.

Kickboxers can weigh 179 to 186 pounds in the light cruiserweight division. Rios actually weighed 175 and Lopez came in at 190.

"I had to eat a big burrito and a cheeseburger and drink a lot of fluids before I weighed in," Rios said. "I also stuffed a lot of heavy key chains and cell phones in my pockets before I went to weigh in."

When Rios finally weighed in he tipped the scales at 180. Lopez, meanwhile, still weighed more than the seven-pound differential.

"Finally he stripped down and he made weight at 186."

The food and fluids he drank before weigh-in took their toll on Rios.

"You can see I am almost throwing up," he said while watching a videotape of the fight.

Rios is slumped over a bucket sitting on his stool in his corner between the second and third rounds in the video and looks like he might get sick.

He didn't and came out and took it to the slower, exhausted Lopez in the last round, using a lot of body punches to wear down his opponent.

Rios relied more on the punches because of his upbringing. His dad, Ines, was a boxer when he was younger and it was Ines who got Sean Rios interested in boxing at age 9.

"I've always liked karate, but my dad said boxing would be better for me," Rios said.

Rios actually was a pretty good boxer, winning several bouts. Eventually, though, he abandoned boxing for another love, soccer.

"I've been playing soccer ever since seventh grade at Barbara Worth (Junior High)," he said.

He still yearned to get into karate so a couple years ago he began practicing the martial art.

"I did pretty good, but I had to quit because of my job," he said, noting he could not work in a fast food restaurant and still devote the time needed to karate.

He still loved boxing and karate so when it came time to choose a senior project, he thought about combining both loves into one n kickboxing. He had seen the sport on television and liked it so he thought he might give it a try.

Besides, he had the basic tools for the sports he learned from his boxing and karate days.

"Kickboxing is a mixture of both," he said.

He enlisted his family and friends to help him train at a gym in Calipatria.

"I was used to full contact karate, with high kicks," Rios said.

In kickboxing, though, most of the kicks are low kicks at the legs, shins and thighs.

"I would have my friends come with me to the gym and I'd practice with them kicking me," Rios said. "My brother Edgar (16) also used to be in karate and I used to have him also practice kicking me.

"And I had my dad practice punching me, especially in the face," he continued. "Hey, I had to be ready for anything."

He was ready against Lopez. Now Rios has his sights set on his next match, probably in June.

"My next one I know will be a lot tougher," he said. "And a lot harder, faster."

Rios has his sights set on a goal.

"I want to win the state championship," he said.

He figures five more wins and the title is his.

After the California title, Rios said he would like to go after the North American championship or a regional title, all the while staying in the amateur ranks.

"Right now I don't know if I want to turn pro," he said.

It would be an ultimate goal, but Rios has another goal in sight

"I really enjoy martial arts," he said. "And I'm always looking to try something new."

When he trained at a gym in Westmorland he and some friends dabbled in ultimate fighting, or no-holds-barred submission fighting.

"I think I'd really like to get into mixed martial arts like ultimate fighting," Rios said, adding it would be a dream-come-true to trade punches with the former ultimate fight champion Ken Shamrock, who has several Lion's Den studios throughout California, including one in San Diego.

Until that day, Rios is content to punch and kick his way to a title or two.

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